I remember watching the first Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone way back in 2001 and thinking it was cute and fun but was ultimately disinterested, as it seemed to be more of a kids' film than anything else. Of course I hadn't read any of the books at that point, and author J.K. Rowling hadn't taken her characters too far outside Hogwarts yet.
So, I guess you could say I've never been a die-hard Potter fan, but if there was any of the seven films that could turn me into one, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows might be it. Make no mistake folks, it's not child's play anymore.
From the onset, we're essentially dropped into a dire situation that just gets darker as the film progresses. If I had to compare it to another movie to explain the tone, it'd have to be along the lines of The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. There's a sense of epic drama at play here, maybe because everyone knows that this is the "last" Harry Potter adventure, or maybe because this story in particular is what the seven book series has been pointing toward the entire time.
The most interesting thing about Deathly Hallows isn't the crazy special effects, the bizarre and wondrous new characters we meet, or the magical fight sequences that play out more like gun battles, it's the metaphors for growing up and fulfilling one's destiny played out through the three leads. In this entry, Harry, Hermoine and Ron are essentially turned into war refugees at the hands of their nemesis Lord Voldemort, and must go on the run to survive as well as carry out the task of finding and destroying the Horcuxes (where Voldemort has hidden his soul in order to attain immortality), a task bestowed upon them by the late Professor Dumbledore.
Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint are allowed to really exercise their acting chops this time out, under the direction of David Yates, and really bring life to the troubled youths as they battle for their lives and form a love triangle that may very well jeopardize everything. Again, the most engrossing and driving factor in these performances is the concept of children having to grow up too soon, perhaps most strongly evidenced in an early scene where Hermoine must wipe her parents' memories clean in order to keep them and herself safe from the evil clutches of Voldemort, who is now seeking to exterminate Harry Potter like some kind of wizardly Nazi.
We get to see Ron dealing with nightmares of Hermoine and Harry making out while nude, causing tensions to rise where they're already high. Harry stays focused on his main goal, but in the world of magic, you never can trust who's right around the corner. Filled with gut-wrenching moments, as well as a few light-hearted ones, the first half of Deathly Hallows manages to cover about two-thirds of Rowling's final book in order to set up the ultimate climax.
It's a great ride, even if you're not a Potter fan, though the film's fast pace may cause non-fans to gloss over many of the details from the book that have been layered into scenes that fly by. And while the story of Part I is just the set-up for the final conflict, it's clear where this is all heading. If you hadn't already guessed by the PG-13 rating, the boy wizard has grown up.